Women are NOT their Genitalia

Women are NOT their Genitalia

One is not born, but rather becomes, woman.
— Simone de Beauvoir

Filling in the statement “women are….” with “not their genitalia” was a move rather out of character. There’s something about it that’s a little risky, a little provocative, perhaps even a little exhibitionistic — qualities that aren’t completely foreign to me but not readily accessed and even less so in a public forum. I tend to take the road of making myself palatable — and more and more I’m realizing* that it isn’t only a matter of temperament but also something that has been shaped by cultural messages about how a woman should be (*with thanks to women like Adrienne Harris who write so eloquently on the complexity and fluidity of gender and its cultural situatedness). 

That all said, I must admit that the statement on my t-shirt didn’t originate from me. It was essentially stolen (with permission) from my friend M — who is one of the most badass women I’ve ever known. When I asked her to complete the sentence at hand, she responded without hesitation: “Not their genitalia.”

I felt a resounding YES. The phrase somehow distilled and articulated so many disparate thoughts into one phrase. It spoke to my desire to make space for transwomen in this conversation about what it means to be a woman — and to be sensitive to the fact that not every woman has a vagina. And as we here at MHT raise awareness about human trafficking this month, it feels important to note that transgender youth are particularly vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation

And it brings to mind Simone de Beauvoir’s declaration that “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman.”

It spoke to the trauma of being a woman — and to something about the word pussy showing up in mainstream media during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

And it spoke to reclamations of womanhood that allowed for rage and joy. To all the pussy hats at women’s marches. To Pussy Riot. To Janelle Monáe’s music video for Pynk. To female sexuality as an embodied space for varied experience. 

We aren’t used to seeing bold celebrations of the mighty yoni. And for that matter…the same could be said about menstruation, menopause, or the “fourth trimester.” 

The sentiment is women are not ONLY their genitalia. We aren’t only pussies to be grabbed. 

We OWN our own genitalia. We OWN our own sexuality. We OWN how we define ourselves. 

My hope for the future is that we all begin to tell a more inclusive and expansive story about womanhood. And, I believe, that will require you and me to show up to the conversation with our whole selves, armed with creativity, openness toward fumbling around, and willingness to take risks. 


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Taz MorganMA, is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, IMF #99714, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. She has trained in Depth-oriented psychotherapy and works with adolescents, adults, and couples. 

Women are Courageous

Women are Courageous

Courageous women are in and around us.  

Throughout history, woman have shown courage, whether in daring and dauntless fashion or quietly behind the scenes. Granted, life is not without its setbacks for us all — men and women alike encounter challenges, and yet, for me, there are few things as inspiring in life as a woman who displays her courage and determination in breaking down barriers.

In the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers found that exposing women to highly successful female role models helped them overcome gender negative stereotypes related to their own performance. Perhaps I had some sense of this early on and this is why in high school I had a Rosie the Riveter poster hanging in my bedroom...to gaze up and bask in her courageous strength when needed, letting the words, “We can do it” settle into my being.

J.K. Rowling lived on welfare as a single mother and was rejected by countless publishers before Harry Potter made her one of the most famous and successful authors in the world. Her courage to press on in the face of these challenges is profound. Or Lyudmila Pavlichenko, World War II sniper, credited for killing hundreds of German soldiers and in a speech to the American military, famously said, “I am 25 years old and have killed 309 fascist invaders by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?”

Whether we want to sign up for a Spartan Race, leave a miserable career, or simply get out of the bed in the morning, time and again, women have tapped their innate wellspring of courage to press on and find strength in struggle. And when you do this, you give other women permission to do the same. I believe one essential ingredient of courage is to face our fears; choosing love over fear. Regardless of the outcome, if we have done this at some point in our life, we have a life well-lived. Chances are, you don’t have to look too far in your immediate circle of friends and family to find equally exemplary woman as J.K. Rowling and Lyudmila Pavlichenko. Courageous women are in and around us.  

...there are few things as inspiring in life as a woman who displays her courage and determination in breaking down barriers.

HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Mary Starks, MA, is an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor #5828, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT #50732. Mary specializes in child and family counseling and has extensive training in the field of infant mental health.

Women are Weird

Women are Weird

We’re a little too alive to be contained by some static definition!

What does it mean to be a woman? That question will never be fully answered, and I like that. Of course, women share certain experiences, and on the whole, some common traits that we've come to label as "feminine." But unique or unusual experiences and traits spring out of us as well. We're a little too alive to be contained by some static definition!

I love that about being a woman. If there is a definition to what it means to be a woman, it's constantly being further defined or even redefined. And I think it's pretty cool to be part of that defining process. I am grateful for the legacy of women who've gone before me and were willing to be weird enough that they challenged our definition of womanhood. They stretched out the definition to give us a bit more room to roam about and find our potential. When they were willing to be weird ladies, they made it a little easier for us to be weird too. Thanks weird women. What a delightful bunch of marbles we all are!


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Allison (Allie) Ramsey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Therapist. Allie works with individuals on a broad range of issues, including anxiety, depression, relational challenges, faith integration, divorce, and aging. 

Women Are Healers

Women Are Healers

...What has most shaped me as a woman is the way my relationships with other women have healed me.

As I scroll through the catalogue of my experiences both as a woman and as a recipient of love and friendship from other women, I am reminded of how many descriptors women embody. We are creative, resourceful, wise, wild, deep. And we wear so many hats. We have thriving careers, bear children, foster friendships, build businesses, care for the home — yes, sometimes overextending ourselves to show up for and love others. But what has most shaped me as a woman is the way my relationships with other women have healed me. The turning toward me in times of distress and offering care and compassion. The deep listening. The calming “coos” and soft body language. The gentle patience while I find the answers for myself.

Women are healers. I know that to be true deep in my bones. And I believe women are the antidote to the overly masculinized culture that has forced a broken, patriarchal system on us all.

I think of the places I work - MHT and Alive and Well Women – both with powerful women at the helm who use their strengths to lift others. These women are willing to collaborate and dialogue with their employees rather than prescribe solutions. They do not manage with absolute control or over-emphasize productivity, but instead empower employees to find balance in work life and soul life. They have cultivated cultures that nourish development and health.

It is not to say that men can’t also lead in this way, but I believe it is a mode of leadership that is perhaps archetypally connected to the feminine. Our history of men in the seats of power and the attendant systemic oppression of women seems to bear testament to this. However, the impact of women in my life and this powerful changing of the tide that I have been fortunate to witness in my young adult years has taught me to embrace the strength of my femininity and has given me hope for a different way.

Women are HEALERS.


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Lauren Joy Furutani, MA, LMFT, helps individuals and families of all ethnic and faith backgrounds maneuver through the unexpected turns in life.

Nature is a Gift

Nature is a Gift

It can be hard to get through a television show without seeing an ad from a pharmacology company showcasing the latest drug. American culture likes a quick fix and our default mentality can make up run for the medication cabinet for all of our ailments, no matter how small. Bombarded with these messages, we forget that nature is also good medicine. Ecotherapy is the idea of connecting to nature to aid our human well being. Research tells us and we intuitively know of the healing properties of nature and these concepts are catching on….for example, “forest bathing” is now a thing.

Personally, I have recently been reminded of nature’s promise in promoting peace of mind. Facing a move and other major life changes, making a habit to ride my bike along Venice and Santa Monica beach fronts, walking at sunset along Ocean’s shore, and soaking in the sun on the sand has brought me out of my head and into a felt sense that the present turbulence is a moment in time. Nature reminds us, the world is larger than our present troubles.

Nature is a gift, like therapy, it can help process the upheaval that comes with change and give us renewed vitality.

At times I have groaned at the extra efforts of separating the recycling materials and disposing them in the two separate trash cans. But I do it out of love, how can I not? I was struck with the idea that I should let nature love me back, especially in this time of life transitions and stressful changes. Life transitions can make nature more important and if we can carve out a space in nature, it can have a grounding effect and be a source of stability. Living in California, there are opportunities abound to do this.

With destruction also comes creation, finding a few quiet, introspective moments in nature can invite spontaneous insight into how creation of new will manifest in your life. I found myself naturally connecting to my will to live my best life and envision the possibilities that lay ahead. This also came with mining the gold in learning from past mistakes, giving me an energy to help bear life's storms with grace and gratitude. What story do I want to tell? Who am I now and what are my values? I found myself having more self compassion and more of a capacity to tolerate staring at the sun of my fears. Injecting some calm only nature can bring help us filter the distractions and minutiae of life. Nature is a gift, like therapy, it can help process the upheaval that comes with change and give us renewed vitality.


Mary Starks, MA, is an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor #5828, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT #50732. Mary specializes in child and family counseling and has extensive training in the field of infant mental health.

Women are Witness

Women are Witness

Witnessing is a powerful act to bring into the world. Whether it is vocal and public or even, as I see it, private and silent, witnessing to the experience of others is a way of shining a light on what has been unseen and calling to account those responsible.

Witnessing is a powerful act to bring into the world. Whether it is vocal and public or even, as I see it, private and silent, witnessing to the experience of others is a way of shining a light on what has been unseen and calling to account those responsible. When we as women witness each other’s experiences, we stand up to the violence and aggression that women and girls experience the world over. We honor the suffering that we see by holding it in mind with compassion and demanding justice for those who have been wronged.

I see witnessing as a role of sorts, one that we can step into whenever there is cause and one in which we can be certain that our individual mind, heart, and voice has meaning and significance. If we were to look down on the earth from above, imagine that everyone who witnesses to the abuses and misuses of power here was one tiny speck of light in a sea of dark. Tiny or not, you would see them. And even if each speck were unaware of the others around it, still, the more people witnessing to the wrongs of the world, the more light there would be.

For victims of trafficking, there is mostly no justice, mostly no recourse, mostly no rescue. The cruel economics of this particular chain of supply and demand make the problem seem intractable. Even so, I take refuge in the thought that no one can take away our witness. I am encouraged by all the voices around me this December raising awareness of this issue and calling for action. Will you join us? This month, wear a dress or a tie every day to bear witness.


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Monica Green, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, PSY 27391, specializing in depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship issues and psychological aspects of chronic health conditions.

Here We Are

Here We Are

 Photos by  Even Keel Imagery
I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.
— Maya Angelou

Hello, Dressember. We have arrived.

Every year the women of MHT band together to use our feminine power and fashionable prowess to raise awareness and funds for the Dressember Foundation and for issues impacting the inherent dignity of women, specifically, women vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking. This year we decided to expand our impact and our fundraising goal. We wanted to dig even deeper; to utilize our creative energy, personal stories and style, to inspire you, educate you, and possibly move you to give.

Given that this has been both a difficult and empowering year for women, we wanted to use our creativity, presence, and voice to continue to challenge the boundaries of how women are defined. Enter MHT's Women Are campaign. In December, as we are raising money for the Dressember Foundation, you will hear from each our clinicians on just what they think WOMEN ARE.

In addition, our team has upped our fundraising goal to $6000. I'm sweating just thinking about it. But then again, with this group of mighty women, what's to fear? Follow along and help us smash our goals!

Why?

Because the issue of human and sex trafficking is both a pervasive and deeply local issue. California and specifically, Los Angeles County, houses the largest foster care system in the US. In 2012, studies estimate that between 50 and 80 percent of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) in California are or were formally involved with the child welfare system. 58% of 72 sexually trafficked girls in Los Angeles County’s STARS Court in 2012 were foster care kids. This is an issue deeply personal to me as adoptive parent, as a foster/adoption professional, and as a female business owner in Los Angeles. I'm grateful to be teaming with the strong-minded women of MHT to do something about it.

Here's how you can participate:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. Of course, we will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate. We will be resurrecting our #badasswomenofhistory series on Instagram. We are also starting a new series called “Women Are” where you will hear from some of our therapists who participated in a photo shoot embodying the statement "Women Are...". Personally, I found this to be such a deeply intimate and inspiring project to work on with my team. We really hope you enjoy.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.

Here’s to another year of fierce fashion and deep musings from badass women getting the job done. Let’s do this!

-Michelle


Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT is an expert trainer, respected speaker, and licensed therapist in trauma and attachment. She is noted for her specialization in areas of development, attachment, trauma, and neuroscience, and her ability to communicate complex topics with clarity and humor. 

The Delights of Nature

The Delights of Nature

corn.png

How delightful are these ornamental corn cobs? If you could pick one up and hold it in your hands, you’d get to feel the texture of the bumpy kernels, smooth and knobbly, you’d notice how glossy and bright each kernel appears, and if you looked closer, you’d see the amazing depth of color trapped beneath the surface of each membrane, the hues of red, purple, and blue. Each kernel is like a rare gem - a cob like a chest of rubies and sapphires!

As an adult I don’t take the time to soak in the details of nature like this very often. My delight in these corn cobs (and the imaginative lens to see them as gems) is a remnant from my childhood. When I was about 9 to 12, I used to become completely absorbed in studying the five or so ornamental corn cobs my mom would set out as part of the fall decor every year. I remember feeling a sense of wonder studying these corn cobs, amazed at how beautiful a vegetable could be! (Ha!)

Maria Montessori, whose philosophy of education is popular today, was a careful observer of children and how they learn, especially in nature. She noticed that when children are given time to freely explore the natural world, they often become instinctive students, natural scientists, absorbed in the details of grass, bugs, rocks and so on. And beyond showing impressive attention and observational skills, she noticed the emotional effect that this kind of time out in nature tended to have on them as well - the way they seemed to grow more fulfilled, happy, and serene.  

I think it’s fair to say it can have a similar effect on us as adults, too! This fall, whether its with your kids or your own inner kid - I hope you’ll make it outside to enjoy the sights, smells, and textures of nature.


Allison (Allie) Ramsey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Therapist. Allie works with individuals on a broad range of issues, including anxiety, depression, relational challenges, faith integration, divorce, and aging. 

"A Call to Love": A Conversation about Our Planet with Dr. Gabrielle Taylor

"A Call to Love": A Conversation about Our Planet with Dr. Gabrielle Taylor

Lauren Ziel, ASW, talks to Dr. Gabrielle Taylor, Clinical Director at Michelle Harwell Therapy, about growing up immersed in the beauty of the natural world, making small efforts to effect change, and the ethical demands of being a mental health professional.

Lauren Ziel: Hi Gabrielle!

Gabrielle Taylor: Hello Lauren!

LZ: I’m really excited to talk to you because ever since we’ve had you as Clinical Director here at MHT, you bubble over with enthusiasm whenever we talk about conservation efforts and the state of our environment. With November being our month of focusing on the intersections between nature and our health as people, we just thought that you’d have so much to say on the topic. We’re excited to pick your brain about it. So, my first general question is: How has your connection to nature shaped you, from childhood to now? And has it informed you both personally and professionally?

GT: How my relationship with nature has informed me? That’s such a great question, actually. 

Like I have shared…I grew up outside. I grew up in Hawaii - pretty much born and raised there. So, that greatly shaped what my external life looked like. And I think that it greatly shaped my interior life. The landscape, the ocean, the mountains, the greenery….it really affected and infected my insides. Essentially, to be able to identity what growth looks like and what life looks like. I mean, I don’t want to be too corny…but it’s beautiful. Tropical beauty (laughs). So, how does it shape me? Well, I reference or resource my internal life to do the work I do and also to be in my personal relationships. There are landscapes there of width and depth that I can resource and can go into my self in order to go to places with others. I don’t know if that’s a corny answer, but I think it’s true.

LZ: Yeah, what you said about being able to see what growth looks like…yeah, nature being a metaphor. I love your use of language there. It makes me think about change that is both human and that you see in our environment and our external world - not the same, but mirrored and parallel…that’s a cool visual that you speak to.

GT: Our humanness is so interconnected to the natural world, right?

LZ: That’s a great segue…how do you view our humanness, our nature, and how it intersects with the world around us? How does being in and of nature benefit us and how being out of it can actually be a huge barrier to health?

GT: I think that our estrangement is a delusion. Our estrangement from nature is a delusion because we as living beings are part of the living world….that’s where we are headed given our mortality. There’s just an inextricable nature. And yet, with the Industrial Revolution, and with the concrete all around us, it greatly shapes us, and then we begin thinking concretely. We lose the spaciousness that we can access when we’re in nature, when we are walking through the woods, when we’re looking out at the horizon when we stand at the beach - that kind of space where we can get out into nature really helps us connect to ourselves in such a profound way.

LZ: I was thinking how ancient civilizations [or indigenous cultures] did have more of that connection….such as the buffalo eats the grass and we eat the buffalo…that there is this cascade that you can always bring it back to a source, which is this planet. Our place on it is only one spot in this big massive web. 

GT: A massive universe.

To me, care for the planet, being a good steward of the planet, is an extension of a mental health professional’s life....we’re called to be loving, compassionate, supportive people to others and to help people walk through the suffering that comes with being human, for whatever reason that suffering comes. The way that we are with people as analysts or therapists is to me the way we need to be with people in our lives, with the planet, with animals. To me, it’s a call to love. Caring for the environment and being concerned about climate change is not a political discussion...you’re in a relationship with the planet and what does it mean to care for it?

LZ: So, we are therapists and you’re an analyst. You spend so much time inside, face to face with human suffering and internal struggle…How do you get your “outdoor fix” — how do you with commune nature when you’re not outside?

GT: Yeah, that’s a good question. Or yeah, even when I am inside. I think you can relate to this, Lauren…a lot of times when I have a break, I do a plank pose. Or do a headstand. Or do some core work. So, the snippets of movement where I can keep my body moving. And not fall into the abyss of sedentary life, which really leaves me in a lot of pain. Sitting decreases our lifespan 7 or 8 years or something? In a very literal way, l I keep myself moving. My art and the plants in my office can remind me of the importance of sunlight, the planet, and nature and what kind of emotional health that brings. But beyond that, and outside of the office…I think we all do this—we crave beautiful places. We crave a walk at sunrise. We crave a walk at sunset. We’ve got dogs; taking the dogs for a walk. In terms of vacation, I certainly want to go where earth is more accessible - essentially what is inspiring in a way that brings me back to myself in a certain way and reminds me of what’s important. Sometimes I can get lost in all the freeway, street driving, buildings that surround me in my day in and day commute and walk. I think going to beautiful places on the planet is so important to keep myself centered on what matters. All of this to me is about relationship. We as human beings are created for relationship with all living things. And I think that includes the planet, that includes animals. To stay related with each other and with the earth…it helps me feel more human.

LZ: You talk about that relational piece….yeah, even when you are “stuck” in the office, you can use that and find a relationship with yourself through movement. And then when you go out in these [natural] spaces, it’s a relationship that is just bigger than you. The more that we can touch into it, the more we realize how important it is. Given the state of the world, it evokes a sense of necessity to do something to maintain this ability to have something to connect to, have these beautiful spaces to visit, and to have a healthy body. The way things are going and have been going…it’s fraught, it’s scary….we may not have these extensions of self and relationships with the natural world because it’s not going to be here. 

How do you take the idea…you know, we work with people and we work with relationships…that is a love and a passion…what is our responsibility as therapists to maintain these connections outside of our therapy rooms and sessions? How can we as a community of therapists address the climate change crisis? You are both - an analyst and an advocate. How do you marry the two and do what you do and make an impact?

GT: For me, it all goes hand in hand. It’s all connected. I think if I were to distill it down…it would distill down to being loving, being compassionate. If you see someone throw trash outside out their window or just throw it on the street, it’s such a hostile, angry act. To me, that’s how it lands on me. You know, you much be upset inside to do that. To me, care for the planet, being a good steward of the planet, is an extension of a mental health professional’s life. Because we’re called…I don’t use this language to be overly religious, but we’re called to be loving, compassionate, supportive people to others and to help people walk through the suffering that comes with being human, for whatever reason that suffering comes. The way that we are with people as analysts or therapists is to me the way we need to be with people in our lives, with the planet, with animals. To me, it’s a call to love. Caring for the environment and being concerned about climate change is not a political discussion. Well, actually you’re in a relationship with the planet and what does it mean to care for it? And to leave it in as good as shape as you can, given that you get to use for a time? It’s just an extension of what we get to do in the consulting room. I don’t know if it’s a chicken and egg situation. It started outside for me as a little girl, and maybe that led me to the consultation room to participate in people’s and get to engage in the creativity of what therapy is and the growth process. 

dr. taylor.jpg

Again, I don’t want to be heavily moralistic, but along the lines of the analyst Donna Orange who writes about climate change and the ethical mandate that we have as mental health professionals….I just think we need to be concerned with all of life and think about how we take care of ourselves, and that includes the environment in which we live. They are inseparable for me. 

LZ: This is very specific. Since you’ve been at MHT, we’ve been making very practical changes to make this a more green small business. What are your favorite way to show your love and appreciation [of the environment] that you make sure to practice?

GT: The environment and the concerns around the planet…and the amount of plastic and trash that we are producing as our human population continues to grow is completely overwhelming. You can just feel completely overwhelmed and paralyzed. If you read that National Geographic issue that came out this summer, you could easily just fall into a puddle of despair. So, I’m of the mindset, like what we do in therapy…doing things one by one. I think every little small thing we do is of importance. For example, at MHT, when we had the move to put in a towel instead of paper towels because paper towels have already been recycled down and they are no longer recyclable. So, we made this move. I love that we did that. Every time I go in there, I’m reminded of the environment…and how we aren’t generating more trash with paper towels. I think it has a ripple effect. We use glasses in the waiting room instead of disposable cups. We recycle…we have been trying to use the recyclable trash bags. All of those things are so great. There’s so many opportunities to buy something that you can throw away or recycle. I tend to carry those things that are recyclable along with me throughout the day. If I don’t see a recycling bin, then I’ll just take the bottle home with me until I can get to the appropriate bin. It’s not that big of an effort to make my small contribution. In my private office, I try to put as much as possible in my big recyclable bag and try to throw very little in my trash bin. It’s crazy not to do these things that take only a little bit of effort.

LZ: Yeah, with all that we use…everything we get is from our environment. So, what is holding a glass bottle in your purse for 8 hours?

GT: I have imagery that helps me and reminds me. I saw that picture of the sea turtle that ended up with a plastic straw in its nose. I just have that imagery come to mind and feel the conflict inside when I see a plastic straw. I think it’s a good conflict to feel. So long as we use the conflict instead of giving into it or falling into despair — it’s motivating.

LZ: Yeah, having that imagery…once you see it, you can use it as motivating factor. You can’t put your head in the sand and pretend that it doesn’t exist anymore..…After we had our open house, we had a lot of food waste, which you know we had a lot of guests, there was a lot of food…I want to get a compost..an MHT compost is next!

GT: I brought some of the extra food home and I put in straight in my yard waste, in my compost. I couldn’t tolerate it going anywhere else. I also think with MHT going green.…as more and more businesses do that, it reminds other people of what we need to do together as a community of human beings. It’s like “Hey, let’s all do it together.” We don’t have to do it alone. We remind our patients who come in, “Okay yeah, I’ll think twice about asking for that plastic straw.” Or thinking about staring their own small contributions. It’s so important that MHT is doing it, to me.

LZ: Yeah, there’s that lean in approach….you’re doing little things. You don’t have to completely re-work it, go vegan, recycle everything, but that doing little things, at least in the beginning can elicit more and more change. I like that idea of not placing some high bar up; living in the constraints that you’re in but beginning to modify them. 

GT: Right, well said. 

LZ: Thank you so much. I’m really excited that you’re here and being an outspoken pillar to keep us all accountable. Talk about a ripple effect! It quickly took root in our practice and now we’re going green. It would have happened eventually but you made it happen a little faster.

GT: Well, I don’t know if I made it happen (laughs). I might have given voice to something and then everyone else was bringing things in and making the changes. The collaboration was certainly already there. The action has been taken.

Yes, thank you for having me!


Dr. Gabrielle Taylor serves as Clinical Director at Michelle Harwell Therapy and is a licensed Psychologist and Psychoanalyst in private practice in Pasadena, CA. She is also a member at New Center for Psychoanalysis where she serves on the Admissions Committee. She is Core Faculty at Wright Institute Los Angeles whee she supervises and teaches – her class The Poetry of Psychoanalysis: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Theory is favored among many of the students.


Lauren Ziel, MSW is a Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker, ASW #76483, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Through the use of movement and mindfulness, Lauren develops specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, challenges in life-stage transitions, relational difficulties, and identity/intrapersonal development.